Organ-meets electronics: choral music from Tallis to Claudia Molitor; jazz-rock; improvised-sax-meets-electronics; day three of Sounds New 2014.
Images:© Sounds New / Peter Cook
Delightmemt and excitement coursing through the corridors of Sounds New HQ at this feature in the local press on Thursday.
Find out about all the events at Sounds New next month online here.
Ahead of their visit to Sounds New in May, I put Three Questions to James Weeks, conductor and founder of EXAUDI:
Tell us about your ensemble.
I started EXAUDI in 2002 with Juliet Fraser. We wanted to do the most extreme, interesting and challenging new vocal ensemble music around, something we didn’t see anyone else really doing at the time in the UK, and we’ve basically been doing exactly this ever since. For a new music ensemble we are actually quite catholic in our tastes, in that we are just as interested in tackling conventionally-notated music (Xenakis, Ferneyhough, Sciarrino et al.) as working with more so-called ‘experimental’ paradigms from Cage and Cardew onwards. We enjoy microtonality as much as white-note modality – essentially if the music is questing in spirit, imaginative and thoughtful and outside boring conventional style then we’re in. Our singers are all steeped in early music practice and we do a lot of medieval, Renaissance and early baroque repertoire as well; recently we’ve focused in depth on Gesualdo madrigals in combination with contemporary Italian madrigal repertoire (one of several active commissioning schemes). But our main focus is on the music being composed today, especially of our own generation around the world. We hope to make a real impact on the development of vocal ensemble music in our time.
What excites you about contemporary music ?
The fact that it’s contemporary music, it’s being made by us and the people around us and is concerned with what it’s like to be alive now, today. Much as it can be comfortingly escapist to live surrounded by the past in a historicist culture like ours, I can’t think of anything more urgent or more deeply rewarding than to produce new art and make new discoveries that speak to and define our own time.
What can we expect from your performance at Sounds New ?
We’re bringing a new programme called ‘Austerity Measures’, a phrase we hear a lot these days although our programme isn’t explicitly political. It’s more of a pun, measures meaning musical bars, and the austerity is in the music. Matt Wright asked us for a programme that involved Tallis and also music of the Low Countries, and I thought it would be interesting to start from the famous Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter and explore the idea of a pared-down, rather austere music – which is something a lot of composers today are concerned with in a variety of ways. So we have Reformation-era Tallis, Josquin at his most laconic, and pieces by Claudia Molitor, Aldo Clementi and me which are similarly restrained in their materials. We are also doing a lovely piece by Dutch composer Arnold Marinissen involving percussion. I hope it’ll be a really beautiful show.
Find out more about EXAUDI at Sounds New 2014 online here.
With thanks to James Weeks.
Amidst the whirwind preparations for Sounds New 2014, I caught up with Guest Artistic Director of this year’s festival, Matt Wright, to find out more about what’s coming to Canterbury in May.
What’s in store from SN this year ?
MW: This year, Sounds New is featuring the very best names associated with contemporary European and Indian classical traditions, cutting edge jazz and African groove, improvised and experimental music, poetry, dance, interactive installations, sonic art and laptop sets in gallery spaces, on the high street and on the web!
Phew: I’m exhausted just thinking about it all! ‘Connections’ seem to be an important facet of the programme this year; tell us about them.
MW: We’re exploring connections between performers working in different traditions as a big part of Sounds New. We’re bringing a large-scale multimedia event, within which contemporary ensemble Icebreaker will perform Apollo: For All Mankind with music by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno and film footage from NASA. We’ll be celebrating the music of Canterbury Scene legend Robert Wyatt, in both a new exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Gallery (featuring a new work by sound artist Janek Schaefer) and a unique recomposition of Wyatt’s ‘Cuckooland’ album, bringing together the Brodsky Quartet, radical vocalist Elaine Mitchener, arranger Tony Hymas and my own live laptop sampling. Contemporary jazz also features too, in the work of Robert Stillman and Mercury Music prize-nominees Led Bib.
Connecting with local composers is also a feature this year.
MW: That’s right; we’re so lucky that so many musicians linked with Kent also have international reputations, so the brilliant vocal group Exaudi will be exploring the innovative work of composers such as Claudia Molitor, and Lauren Redhead and Thomas Oehler also present their own works. I mentioned Robert Stillman earlier: he will fuse together influences of Americana, the avant-garde and jazz in a fantastic record launch event. Saxophonist John Harle, well known to Kent audiences, will also perform high-quality new repertoire composed for him by CCCU students.
And are there some new connections being explored this year ?
MW: Yes; we make new connections with the Free Range experimental concert series (including ‘Eating Sound’, which focuses on the connections between music and high-end local cuisine) and two unique Equator Festival events: Congolese band Kasai Masai (5th May) and North-Indian sarod virtuoso Wajahat Kahn (9th May). There are also events focussing on innovative connections between dance, film and light.
And birthdays are being celebrated too, I notice ?!
MW: Indeed! We continue our strong association with the London Sinfonietta in a unique five-day residency, supported by Canterbury Christ Church University, culminating on 5th May with a performance of Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union to celebrate his 75th birthday. …and we’re celebrating another internationally-renowned, Kent-based musician with a rare solo concert from Evan Parker to celebrate his 70th birthday.
And we’re continuing to develop our relationship with poetry ?
MW: Yes; the brilliant Sounds New Poetry will return, featuring site-specific readings (3rd-5th May) and writers-in-residence at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge (6th-9th May).
There’s a synergy between audiences for new music and new poetry, isn’t there ?
MW: Yes, ‘Sounds’ and ‘New’ are terms that shouldn’t just be reserved for music, I feel, and the live performance of poetry is very strong in Canterbury: it is something that Free Range and the ZONE poets at the University of Kent have really helped to bring closer to ‘music’ audiences. I’m looking forward to further connections between music, sound and the spoken word right across the festival.
Inspiring musicians and audiences of tomorrow continues to be important, reflected in the educational aspect of Sounds New; what’s happening this year ?
MW: Building performers and listeners of the future is very important for us; all of our programming has education at its heart. This year our programme of events for young people culminate in the ‘All for One’ event at St Peter’s Methodist Church; there’s also the ‘Curious Curator’ exhibition and ‘the Black Box’ project (which grows out of our innovative ‘Big Brand New’ ensemble).
So, to sum it up: a vibrant, eclectic and innovative festival this year with plenty to look forward to ?
MW: in short, the festival is as packed as ever and we hope to see you there! Early bird tickets will be available soon from: www.soundsnew.org.uk so make sure you’re keeping an eye out…